William Chrisman girls basketball coach Scott Schaefer steps down to take job at his Nebraska alma mater

By Bill Althaus
William Chrisman girls basketball coach Scott Schaefer offers instructions to player Gia Moore during a game in the 2019-20 season. Schaefer is stepping down after leading the Bears to their first state final four appearance since 1993 to return to his hometown of Columbus, Nebraska, to help revive that program.

In an emotionally charged goodbye, William Chrisman High School girls basketball coach Scott Schaefer met with his Class 5 final four team members to tell them personally that he was leaving to return home.

Schaefer, who owns a 135-55 record over the past seven years as the Bears head coach, was given an offer he simply couldn't refuse from Columbus High School in Columbus, Neb., the alma mater of the iconic coach who graduated in 1975.

Brenda, his wife of 38 years, had been looking for a teaching job and Schaefer received a call from his alma mater, asking he would be willing to return home to help develop the same kind of basketball culture he kept going strong when he joined the Bears staff.

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"My wife has been looking for a teaching job and when I got the call from Nebraska, and they said they have an opening in the business department, I had to look into the situation," Schaefer said.

"It came totally out of the blue. It's always interesting and exciting to help rebuild a program, and that's what we'd be doing at Columbus. They won four games last year, and I always enjoy a challenge. And when the teaching job was offered to Brenda, I couldn't say no."

He met with his players Monday at Chrisman, and tears flowed and hugs were exchanged.

"It was so hard to tell the kids I was leaving," said Schaefer, who surpassed 600 career victories this past season while leading the Bears to their first state final four appearance since 1993. "I have been so fortunate to build some wonderful relationships at Chrisman with my coaching staff, our players and our administration team – and that starts with (Independence School District Superintendent) Dr. (Dale) Herl. 

William Chrisman girls basketball coach Scott Schaefer helps cut down the net after his Bears capped an undefeated Suburban Middle Six Conference title in February. Schaefer, who led the Bears to their first state final four appearance since 1993, is stepping down to return to his hometown of Columbus, Nebraska.

"I have received so much support from him and Greg (McGhee, the Bears activities director). It's been such an honor to serve here the past seven years."

Schaefer also coached 16 years at McPherson (Kan.) High School, winning four state titles, and nine at Gardner-Edgerton (Kan.) High School before coming to Chrisman.

McGhee said Chrisman’s coaching position was posted late Monday, and he expects many applicants.

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"Scott has made this one of the premier coaching positions in the state," McGhee said. "He came here and helped create something special. I was surprised when he told me he was leaving, but I am happy for him that he gets to go home.

"As great as he is as a coach, he is an even better person, and I'm going to miss watching his teams and just being around the guy."

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So will his players.

"When we met with Coach Schaefer, I won't say I was sad, although there were a few tears," David said. "I am just so thankful that he was my coach in high school because he taught me so much more than basketball. He taught all of us life lessons and how to be better young women.

“He was always committed to our team and would do anything for us, even though we bumped heads a couple of times over the past four years, all he wanted from us was hard work and dedication – and that's what he gave us every day."

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Added guard Gia Moore, "He has taught us so much, and I am so thankful and blessed to be able to play for him."

Schaefer takes a 611-231 career record to Columbus. He claimed his memorable 600th career victory, a 65-35 rout of Noland Road rival Truman, in his last season at Chrisman.

Truman coach Jimmy Page lauded Schaefer's career following the milestone win saying, “I can’t even imagine 600 career wins. I have six. I was at Truman when Steve (Broughton) got his 400th career win and I thought that was a lot. But 600 – wow! And Coach Schaefer is a class act.”

A class act who made a lasting impact on his team, his school and his coaching fraternity.